how fit are you?

You know exercise is good for you. You look for ways to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine, and you set aside time for longer workouts at least a few times a week. But if your aerobic workouts aren't balanced by a proper dose of strength training, you're missing out on a key component of overall health and fitness. Training with weights, you will....

■Develop strong bones. By stressing your bones, strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
■Control your weight. As you gain muscle, your body burns calories more efficiently — which can result in weight loss. The more toned your muscles, the easier it is to control your weight.
■Reduce your risk of injury. Building muscle protects your joints from injury. It also helps you maintain flexibility and balance — and remain independent as you age.
■Boost your stamina. As you grow stronger, you won't fatigue as easily.
■Improve your sense of well-being. Strength training can boost your self-confidence, improve your body image and reduce the risk of depression.
■Get a better night's sleep. People who commit to a regular strength training program are less likely to have insomnia.
■Manage chronic conditions. Strength training can reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions, including arthritis, back pain, depression, diabetes, obesity and osteoporosis.
Consider the options
Strength training can be done at home or in the gym. Consider the options:

■Body weight. You can do many exercises with little or no equipment — use your body weight instead. Try push-ups, pull-ups, abdominal crunches and leg squats.
■Resistance tubing. Resistance tubing is inexpensive, lightweight tubing that provides resistance when stretched. You can choose from many types of resistance tubes in nearly any sporting goods store.
■Free weights. Barbells and dumbbells are classic strength training tools. You can also try homemade weights, such as plastic soft drink bottles filled with water or sand.
■Weight machines. Most fitness centers offer various resistance machines. You can also invest in weight machines for use at home.